I will not apologize for my early admiration of Mtv. I think it was a very special time where popular taste lined up with musical innovation and exploration. Then they figured out how to monetize it. Then again, I’m an old man.
This morning, I listened to five songs from The Jacksons, after they were the 5, when Michael returned to them with his massive popularity. The five songs brought back such insane, palpable memories for me. I sat there with this big, goofy smile on my face. I want to try to put the feeling into words.
I thought of the time our music teacher in elementary school, a former nun, had our class lip sync and perform a dance routine to the song “State of Shock.” That’s Mick Jagger and The Jacksons. I remember her putting the record on in our classroom, and the serious look that came across her face, and this dramatic head swing she did, her long hair flowing out behind her, as she pointed off into the distance to sing the chorus. I thought she was the coolest thing ever.
I saw her later in the parking lot of the clinic where my best friend’s father worked as a doctor. She was waiting for her appointment and she was smoking. I remember thinking, dang, she’s cool. She was a nun, she loves music, and she smokes. Wow.
And I was shocked back to 1984, an important year for music to me, one that sticks out like crazy in my memory, for the times my father would record music videos off late night TV and then show them to me and my brother. There are singular, intense images of early MTV burned into my brain from that time period; Annie Lennox pounding on a table, glaring out in her androgynous beauty, Madness darting around their house, the weird candlelit staircase from Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and the candles in “Wrapped Around Your Finger” by The Police, Herbie Hancock’s strange creations dancing and singing to his funky number, Corey Hart writhing in his bed, wearing his sunglasses at night, Huey Lewis and his withdrawal symptoms, and the strange ceremony of Billy Idol’s “White Wedding.”
All of a sudden, it hit me, that The Jacksons were there, too. I saw them in a dungeon, being tortured for the song of the same name, surrounded by scary monsters and super creeps. All this freaky stuff is embedded in my mind, forever cast toward the back of my eight-year-old brain. I got tears in my eyes while I sat and listened. The combination of music and memory is a powerful thing.